#PRFAIL: United Airlines or Divided Airlines?

“This [death] was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin,” [United Airlines] said. “We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again.”

Think about that for a second.

This was the company statement released after a French bulldog, Kikito, died following spending a flight with his carrier unsafely placed inside a plane’s overhead bin. The stewardess who perpetrated the mistake said she didn’t know he was in there, but his owner reports hearing him bark before the flight took off.


What if that was YOUR pet? How would that PR response make you feel? As a business owner, think about YOUR customers. Is this how you would treat them? Is this how you would respond if YOUR employee inflicted damage to a customer on that level? In cases like this, this is not just a PR issue—it is a management issue—and heads have to roll.

In fact—PR IS the management of the organization, the management of one’s finances, the management of one’s customer service. PR is how you make others FEEL which determines how they will BEHAVE. In reality, that CEO should have communicated how incensed he was that his employees would be so ignorant, negligent and even downright criminal to their customers. It’s “head on a pike time.” It’s overhaul time. “It’s termination time.” Who is running customer service? Who is over hiring?

Look into them too. And the appropriate emotion in his response should have been anger. Anger at the situation and the callousness of those who fail to execute policy, or even abide by common sense.

As this isn’t the first major misstep by United recently (think about the forced removal of passenger David Dao, or the accidental shipping of another dog to Japan), CNN reports that people are messaging United stating they will never fly on the airline again.


  1. Social media users are incensed after a small dog died on a United (UAL) flight. What happened exactly isn’t completely clear. One person who claimed to be a passenger on the flight said on Facebook that the flight attendants forced the dog’s owner keep i. “How United Is Navigating Another PR Disaster.” CNNMoney, Cable News Network, money.cnn.com/2018/03/13/news/companies/united-dog-death-response/index.html.
  2. Bromwich, Jonah Engel. “Fallout for United Airlines Continues After Death of Kokito the French Bulldog.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Mar. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/03/15/us/united-airlines-dog-death.html.
  3. Baldacci, Marlena, and Joe Sterling. “Dog Bound for Kansas Mistakenly Shipped to Japan via United Airlines.” CNN, Cable News Network, 15 Mar. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/03/14/us/united-flight-dog-mix-up/index.html.
  4. Victor, Daniel, and Matt Stevens. “United Airlines Passenger Is Dragged From an Overbooked Flight.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Apr. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/04/10/business/united-flight-passenger-dragged.html?mtrref=www.nytimes.com.

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